It was girls’ night at the camp. As we began crowding into one of the larger suites in the hotel, our Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi friends tossed bags of candy onto the growing heap on the floor and onto the beds, many of their headscarves and hijabs. “Let’s dance”, once of the girls shouted dragging a few of us into the center of the room. We jumped in, although within minutes there were no North Americans left. The ‘real dancers’ were happy to show us their moves. It was amazing. Several of the girls were focused on covering their bodies with henna tattoos, flowers, vines, peace signs and arrows. They invited us to try putting the henna on them. Before long we were all covered with light brown markings. At the suggestion of one of our teammates, we found also found ourselves being dressed in our new friends’ hijabs. The girls carefully tied up our hair and wrapped the colorful fabrics around us. We gathered for a photo while they giggled at how different we looked. They told us we were beautiful.
In that hotel room we sat in a circle, some on the beds, others on the floor. We talked and laughed until our eyes grew tired and our conversations lulled.
We had been talking all week actually, around extended tables, over prolonged dinners, on melting hot pool chairs and of course by the moving beach shores.
We’d been discussing peace, leadership and diversity. Here, however, we were living it.
We saw it in the stories being told by these extraordinary women. Women who have learned to fight, to protect, and to hope when they’ve had little reason to. Women who have experienced some of the worst life has to offer: war, sickness, and on every level loss.
And yet there we were celebrating a beauty in one another that went beyond all that. We sat there eating junk food and laughing over who looked like which movie star. We watched one another, seeing things that had been hidden, with hopes to understand. It was beautiful.
– April K.